I spent the afternoon with a new mom of a precious 10-week-old baby girl. She shared with me that ever since the baby was born, she (the mom) had been having a bit of anxiety. Nothing terrible. She was just feeling that when the baby got fussy in public, it made her and her husband (but more her) feel uncomfortable. She said that she could feel her cheeks getting red whenever the baby started to be unhappy. She knew it was silly and that babies just fuss – that’s the way it is but still….. I tried to assure her that it would get better with time as she got used to new situations with her baby in tow.
I remember a time when we were scheduled for an early flight home from a visit to my mother-in-law’s. The flight was delayed several hours due to bad weather. Time in an airport with a bunch of kids can be an adventure like the time the boys lined up in front of a TV in a sports bar to watch the World Cup or more typically it can be a nightmare. William was a baby and he was making quite a fuss and tugging on his ear. Ugh. An ear infection probably. My husband and I decided a walk-in clinic might be a good idea, especially since I had a few hours to kill. The doctor confirmed our suspicions and advised us not to take William on a plane for several days. We quickly decided Jay would fly with the other three boys home and William and I would hang out for a few more days. I called my mother-in-law. She had already changed the sheets and was not excited about us reappearing. We crashed with our friends, and actually had a fun little extension to our vacation. As those of you with multiple children will understand, taking care of just one seems like a piece of cake.
So, a few days later, I was heading to the airport once again, with William. We got on the plane and sat next to a gentleman who happened to be blind (read: heightened sense of hearing). We took off and so did William! Obviously his ear infection was not yet completely cleared up and he let everyone know he was in pain! My seatmate actually said to me: "If I paid you, could you get him to quiet down." I burst into tears. That was not very helpful, except the man felt bad and said he had been kidding. I was very glad to get home and swore I was never flying again.
Back to my young mom friend – her family had just taken a long plane flight and their little girl was an angel. Everyone admired her beauty and said what a “good baby” she was -because she slept. Yes, that is preferable but probably more the exception than the rule. What I try to remember is that many of these adults are parents and they have been there and they understand. I also do the best I can and pray that will be good enough. I think this new mom also just wants everyone to know how incredible her baby is, to always see her in the best light – we can all relate to that.
In her own words, the young Mommy told me this:
“I feel like a happy and/or sleeping baby is the only baby strangers want to be around. When she's being sweet and quiet, she's a "good" baby. Everyone loves her. When she had a "blowout" (poop went out her diaper and through her clothes) in the airport between our international and connecting she screamed her head off in the restroom. And I heard someone say, "Oh boy...that baby's having a tough time..." And I felt crummy about it. Like she was a "bad" baby. But my baby sleeping on the connecting flight was a "good" baby. I don't think that's fair! She's a good baby even when she's "having a tough time."
Before little ones can talk, it is impossible to know what is bothering them. You get better at it with practice for sure. You also come to learn what soothes them at each stage. When one of ours had a bad, fussy day, we called it a “growing day” – it made us feel better that our little one was doing something productive, stretching and learning new stuff, even if we were exhausted from all that “growing.”
Bottom line: Breathe, Moms. It is going to be just fine. Most people are just glad that fussy baby is yours and they don’t have to get up and take a walk or rock back and forth until the little one closes her eyes and sleeps - like a baby.